The Case for Keenum

Keenum's prolificness and promising schedule could help quarterback-depleted fantasy owners down the stretch.

Unpredictable was the descent of the Houston Texans this season, a team destined for the playoffs, a team in ostensibly the weakest division in the NFL, a team whose playoff likelihood solidified many pre-season parlays.

The Week 1 collapse by the San Diego Chargers, swung by a now ironic pick-six, instilled a false hope in the Texans. Hindered by Matt Schaub’s ineptness, Arian Foster’s and Ben Tate’s chronic injuries and Andre Johnson’s enigmatic performances, the Texans began a seven-game losing streak in Week 3. Houston is entirely irrelevant in the NFL.

But that doesn't mean they're fantasy irrelevant.

College football legend Case Keenum has led the Texans to a red hot 0-3 stretch over the past three games. Keenum, the all-time leader in collegiate passing yards, touchdowns, and completions while playing for the Houston Cougars, has thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in his three starts, averaging 20 fantasy points per week in the process.

Righting the Wrong

As soon as he took over the starting gig for the Texans in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Keenum began to reverse all the bad that Schaub had done to the team’s passing statistics. A definition for Passing Net Expected Points and other terms can be found here, which may help for the chart below.

WeekOpponentQuarterbackAdj. PNEPAdj. PNEP/PlayFantasy Points
5@ SFSchaub-14.50-0.060
7@ KCKeenum-15.01-0.0513
10@ ARIKeenum-5.65-0.0119

The "Adjusted" piece to these metrics means that it's been adjusted for strength of schedule. Every time Schaub dropped back to pass from Weeks 3-6, Houston was expected to lose points. Keenum undid the unspeakable horrors Schaub did to the team’s passing statistics within three weeks, including two 3 TD, 0 INT games. Aside from a mediocre 13 fantasy points in Arrowhead against the Chiefs in his first NFL start, he has averaged 23.5 fantasy points per game, a number that more than gets it done for a waiver wire quarterback.

Better Than the Rest?

Admittedly, being better than Schaub this year was no great obstacle for Keenum, so he must be compared to the rest of the league as well.

Of the 45 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 50 passes this season, Keenum owns the 15th-highest Passing NEP per Pass at 0.08. Adjusting that same list for injuries and benchings by excluding Aaron Rodgers and Matt Cassel makes Keenum the 13th-most successful quarterback per pass in terms of putting points on the board for his team, placing Keenum on the edge of startable in most standard leagues.

I Do Believe the Worst Is Behind Us

So what makes Keenum worth the attention then? His matchups.

WeekOpponentAdj. Defense PNEP/PlayAdj. Defense PNEP/Play Rank
14@ JAX0.1830
15@ IND0.12T-24
17@ TEN0.0517

Six of Keenum’s remaining seven games (and five of six when excluding Week 17) provide stellar matchups against below average defenses. His schedule, along with Ryan Fitzpatrick's, are the two most favorable for the rest of the season for streaming quarterbacks. Additionally, all of those matchups should take place in good passing weather.

Granted, the New England Patriots in Week 13, the start of some fantasy playoffs, pose a threat at first glance. However, New England’s Adjusted Defensive PNEP/P has plummeted from -0.35 after Week 2 to the -0.07 after Week 10.

It must be noted that when Keenum debuted in Kansas City, the Chiefs were and still are the leaders in adjusted D PNEP per play. Entering Week 7, the Chiefs boasted a -0.26 rating. Keenum still mustered 13 fantasy points in standard leagues, his lowest point total of his three starts.

Nowhere to Run

In addition to the Texans’ schedule gifting the prolific Keenum, who threw over 39 passes per game in college, enticing match-ups, injuries have thinned out the Houston backfield.

Running back Arian Foster will miss the rest of the season to undergo back surgery, and Ben Tate is playing with four broken ribs. The remaining running backs on the Texans - Dennis Johnson, Deji Karim and undrafted rookie Ray Graham, have a combined 12 rushing attempts this season. Johnson has all 12.

As a result, Keenum's attempts have risen game after game. He threw 25 times in Week 7, 34 in Week 9, and 43 in Week 10. His completion percentage descended in each game as a result, but fantasy owners need him to be less like Alex Smith and more like Case Keenum. For the record, though, Keenum's completion percentage in college was 69.4% (on 39 attempts per game). He is not an inaccurate quarterback, but he did benefit from a pass-happy Houston Cougars offense.

The Case for Keenum

The Texans have nothing to lose and their running game is ineffective. Keenum made a name for himself due to his prolificness and being a voluminous quarterback (again, nearly 40 attempts per game in college), and he has already averaged 20 fantasy points per game in his first three starts.

He may not yet be a player to lock in as a QB1 for the rest of the season, but Keenum should be added. He could be a key to streaming your team to a championship.